Leaders often feed off of the energy created by change, excited to see their organization’s progress and growth. However, it’s important to remember that change can also be intimidating, exhausting and disruptive. It can be thrilling when everyone pulls in the same direction, but that powerful forward motion does create waves.
As mentioned in last week’s blog, 2022 has been a year of transformation at MJ, and our associates have responded in remarkable ways. While that’s been professionally rewarding, I’ve learned that I need to balance my enthusiasm for change with real empathy.
All too often, “bosses” just delegate and simply show up at the finish line to congratulate the team for their hard work and determination. “Leaders” stay alongside the team from the very beginning, offering vision, encouragement and reinforcement, always recognizing that the success of any project depends on thousands of individual decisions and tasks. This is less about vocal cheerleading, and more about partnership, so that your team knows you understand the impact of what’s being asked of them and appreciate the toll of that responsibility. However, this shouldn’t be confused with micromanaging. It’s not about getting into the weeds and usurping anyone’s contributions. Empathy is all about recognizing the very human aspects of any job—the sacrifices, the stresses and the frustration—and doing what you can to support people through those challenges. It means never ignoring the waves being created by a powerful forward motion.
Remember too that empathy can often be expressed in very simple ways, and it usually doesn’t require grand gestures, just a personal touch that doesn’t feel calculated or insincere. Stepping in to help with a tedious task when timelines are getting thin. Asking what additional resources are needed and delivering them. Simply saying thank you. At MJ, we also learned during the pandemic that our associates appreciated our transparency and consistent check-ins, so we continue with both casual and formal check-ins, and we openly share our vision for the future during monthly meetings and at our larger annual meeting.
Maya Angelou once said, “I think we all have empathy. We may not have enough courage to display it.” When you stop to think about her insight, you realize that it takes personal vulnerability to be empathetic. How fortunate I am to be part of an organization that provides the space needed to be vulnerable. Thank you to every MJ associate, client and partner—your generosity throughout 2022 has helped me be a more courageous leader. You continue to inspire me every day.
Happy holidays to all.